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Convicted Reporter to Appeal

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Convicted Reporter to Appeal

Article excerpt

Veteran radio reporter Larry C. Matthews Jr., 55, was sentenced last week to 18 months in federal prison for trafficking in child pornography on the Internet. Matthews, of Ellicott City, Md., says he will appeal the conviction.

Matthews was indicted in July 1997 on 15 counts of possessing illegal material, but claimed he was researching child pornography for a story that he was hoping to sell. After the court ruled in July 1998 that he couldn't use the First Amendment as a defense, Matthews pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving and distributing the material.

The reporter, who pleaded guilty to two counts of sending and receiving child pornography, received the lightest sentence possible under federal guidelines and was fined $4,000. Matthews' lawyers say that if the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., reverses the lower court's ruling denying Matthews's First Amendment defense, he can then withdraw his guilty plea and return to the lower court for trial, where he can present his whole story.

First Amendment observers say the case raises free-press implications because the outcome could block journalists from researching illegal material on or off the Net, thereby stifling investigative reporting. Jane Kirtley, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says Matthews is the first person to be convicted of dealing with child pornography while working as a journalist. "I think it can't be right for the court to say that the First Amendment is irrelevant to this discussion," she says. …

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